French water policy promotes participatory river basin management settings. Most of the settings based on a deliberative model encounter difficulties revealing the limits of this model. Following the French so-called “pragmatic sociology”, this paper studies the framing of such settings to understand the difficulties encountered. Relying on the framework of “regime of engagement”, it proposes four figures of participation to describe the way people are engaged and engage themselves: stakeholder, moral subject, rooted person and exploring human being. It discusses three participation formats by describing a case study conducted in the Orb basin, south of France. It paves the way for improved political and social equipment dealing with water by taking into account diverse participation formats. It discusses the very conditions of exploratory engagement, the articulation of justification with other pragmatic regimes and of political models dealing with intimate relations to the river.
By Audrey Richard-Ferroudji